9 February 2016 - LawyerQuote is Now Launching Nationally
4 February 2016 - Three Years of Growth in Property Sales Volumes – NSW v VIC v QLD
It has been three healthy years of increasing conveyancing activity across the three largest states. In each year across all three states, activity has been increasing. However the rate of increase has been declining, most notably in Queensland from 9% in 2014 to 5% in 2015.
Over the three years, Victoria has had the largest increase in activity of 36% from 2013 to 2015, however this has been skewed because 2012 was an exceptionally low year in that state.
2 February 2016 - Jones Day to open Brisbane Office and welcomes Brett Heading as new partner
The global law firm Jones Day has announced that it will open an office in Brisbane, Queensland, the energy and resources hub of Northeast Australia, effective February 1, 2016.
The Brisbane Office will initially focus on M&A, major projects, and project-related disputes, with an emphasis on the natural resources, construction, transport, and agriculture sectors. Brisbane is Jones Day's third office in Australia, and 43rd worldwide. The Firm opened its Sydney Office in 1998 and its Perth Office in 2014. Together, Jones Day's Australian offices have more than 60 lawyers practicing Australian law and providing a wide range of services for clients, including in litigation, projects and infrastructure, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, intellectual property, and restructuring and insolvency.
"Opening in Brisbane reflects the Firm's ongoing commitment to Australia, Australia's role in the global economy, and the importance of Queensland as a strategic source of energy, natural resources, and agricultural products for the growing Asian economies," said Stephen J. Brogan, Managing Partner of Jones Day.
When Jones Day opens in Brisbane, Brett Heading, a senior Queensland lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions, will join as a partner, bringing a depth of local experience related to transactions and capital raisings, and with particular experience in the energy, natural resources, and agricultural sectors. Mr. Heading was a member of the Takeovers Panel (the Australian regulator of issues arising in hostile corporate takeovers), and has held Government and ASX listed company board positions. He joins from McCullough Robertson where he previously served as Chairman. On the heels of the recent addition of Mark Crean, the former Deputy Senior Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills, Mr. Heading's appointment further strengthens the M&A capability of Jones Day in Australia. More
1 February 2016 - Intense Competition in the Personal Injury Market
Shine Lawyers has now joined Slater & Gordon in suffering a major loss of confidence by ASX investors.
Shine Lawyers’ share price plummeted 73.25% on Friday (29/1/16) falling from $2.00 to close at $0.535. Less than 12 months ago Shine’s share price peaked at $3.45.
Shine Lawyers announced on Friday that its projected profit for 2015/16 would be approximately half of what it had previously expected.
Shine has stated that the reassessment of earnings was primarily a result of WIP and disbursement write offs related to its personal injury practice.
The company further announced that its performance in the six months to December 2015 was below budget. Three reasons were given:
- Sub-optimal fee earner to file ratios, and under performance by some fee earners
- Greater than expected write offs, largely attributable to regulatory reforms
- Continuing market competition, especially in Queensland
Both Shine Lawyers and Slater & Gordon have made reference to intense competition in the personal injury market with both singling out Queensland as especially challenging.
28 January 2016 - Startup Needs More Lawyers to Keep Up With Consumer Enquiries
LawAdvisor launched mid last year with its online platform that connects lawyers with people looking for legal help. LawAdvisor founder Brennan Ong, in an interview with Lifehacker, shared the biggest challenge faced by the startup. Surprisingly, the challenge was not attracting enquiries from consumers, but attracting lawyers to participate in the service.
Brennan Ong explained: “Since launching, we have been inundated with demand from the public, which has not been mirrored by lawyer numbers. As a result, we had to pause our consumer marketing campaigns and have focused on signing up more lawyers. Given that lawyers are very risk averse, we found out that many lawyers were afraid to sign-up without approval from the leadership of their firm. We’ve had to invest time and energy in meetings with Partners of law firms to explain the system, and to educate them that LawAdvisor offers a new way of working and to reach their target clientele, in a way that supports, rather than supplants, their existing practices.”
LawAdvisor has published interesting statistics about the number of internet searches across Australia each month for various types of legal assistance. According to the statistics there are more than 22,000 searches each month for conveyancing and property law. In the categories listed there are more than 120,000 searches each month. These are not searches on the LawAdvisor platform but Google-type searches.
LawAdvisor has been successful in promoting its service through facebook. It has acquired 12,000 followers in only 5 weeks.
22 January 2016 - NSW Licensed Conveyancer Numbers on the Rise
19 January 2016 - Shine Lawyers Downgrading Earnings Guidance
Shine Lawyers has halted trading in its shares on the ASX while it reassesses its earnings projections for the current financial year. The company has announced that it "expects a material reduction in its previous FY 2016 EBITDA guidance pending finalisation of this review."
The company is reviewing its WIP recovery rates and provisioning.
Over at Slater & Gordon, the share price closed at 62.5 cents which is almost at its all time low of 59.5 cents. In addition to a low share price, Slater & Gordon shareholders are considering whether to pursue a class action in response to the massive fall in the value of their investment in the company.
15 January 2016 - Share Price Performance of Publicly Listed Law Firms
11 January 2016 - So You Want to be a NewLaw Law Firm?
Image from Legalyou.com website
NewLaw law firms are known to be innovative, accessible and cost transparent. So far, innovation in the Australian legal services market has mostly focussed on the marketing, packaging and delivery of the service rather than any change to the service itself.
Internet technology is enabling this type of innovation. The prevalence and declining cost of such technology is making it possible for any law firm to become more “NewLaw”.
Some of the more common traits of NewLaw law firms are:
- Free legal documents
- Ability to generate customised “self-service” legal documents online from precedents
- Legal resources for the self-represented or part self-represented litigant
- Plain language communication - often utilising online videos
- Subscription and / or fixed fee pricing
Successful execution and promotion brings results. While it is a lot of work moving down this path, new technology continues to make it cheaper and easier. An example of a small US law firm that has become NewLaw is described by Robert Ambrogi and can be found at legalyou.com
4 January 2016 - Wisest Words Spoken About Professional Services Firms
A video using a speech by Leo Burnett (in his own voice) in which he explains the elements of one of the most successful professional services businesses in the world. Although it is an advertising firm, the principles apply perfectly to any professional services business. (PS: There is always a bowl of apples in every Leo Burnett office)
17 December 2015 - Electronic Property Transfers Now Possible in Queensland
Property transfers through PEXA are now possible in Queensland. The e-conveyancing platform is also looking to recruit two Brisbane based PEXA Direct Specialists and one Gold Coast based (12 month contracts) "to liaise with Legal Practitioners and Conveyancers to coach, support and guide them in using the PEXA platform, driving the activation and utilisation of PEXA whilst providing them with a high level of service."
Queensland property sales activity has had a strong and steady rise over five years. During the sharp fall in 2008, 25% of all real estate agents left the industry. Following a brief rise in 2009, sales activity sunk to record lows and since 2011 has been on the up.
15 December 2015 - Which Firm Won the Price War?
10 December 2015 - NSW Conveyancing - If the Good Times are Behind us Then How Bad Will it Get?
Red line connects November of each year
It has been three good years for conveyancing in NSW. Rising property prices creates the magic that causes people to buy and sell property and causes property developers to do more developing.
Property prices are now stabilising and auction clearance rates are retreating. What should conveyancers expect over the coming 12 months?
The three good years from 2013 to 2015 were mainly good because they were better than the years that preceded them. Before the three good years there were three slow years.
During 2011 the RBA interest rate was just under 5%. It’s not going to be anywhere near that in 2016.
What is a possible worst case scenario for a decline in property sales volumes in NSW for 2016? The first hint came in November 2015 when property transfers were 7% lower than November 2014. If activity reduced to the low points in 2010 and 2011 then it might go down by another 13%. That is around 20% down from its high points.
A 20% reduction in property sales volumes would be a painful outcome for 2016. A more realistic downturn could be between 10%-15% compared to 2015.
7 December 2015 - NSW LPI and PEXA - The Facts Behind the Shocking Headlines
3 December 2015 - Record Number of Private Practice Lawyers on Legal Aid NSW Panels
2 December 2015 - What is it Really Like to be the Only In-House Lawyer in a Company?
Mahlab has released a report in which the views of 28 solo in-house counsel reveal their experiences - under Chatham House rules (i.e. their identities not published).
It is interesting to read about the experience of those working in multinational companies: "Some solo counsel had to adjust and accommodate their work-style to those of their overseas colleagues. For example, one solo regarded Japanese lawyers as reactive rather than proactive, American lawyers tended to ‘cut to the chase’ and English lawyers were commonly ‘polite’ and tended to ‘dance around the issues’. Sole counsel recognise the need to be able to cross the cultural divide in a way that is consistent with their overseas counterparts."
1 December 2015 - Small Private Practice Firms Ranked by Legal Aid Work (NSW and VIC)
29 November 2015 - The Next Chapter for Slater and Gordon
26 November 2015 - Slater & Gordon Share Price Plummets
24 November 2015 - IPH Ltd (Spruson & Ferguson) Raising $60 Million
IPH has completed four key acquisitions over the last 12 months, being Practice Insight, Fisher Adams Kelly, Pizzeys and Callinans.
IPH believes there are good near-term prospects of further acquisitions. The company announced that it is actively engaged in discussions with a number of potential acquisition targets and will also continue exploring opportunities to enter new markets and adjacent businesses.
Net proceeds from the placement will be used to reduce debt in order to provide additional financial flexibility and strengthen IPH's balance sheet to underpin the next phase of acquisitions.
The fully underwritten placement of fully paid ordinary shares to institutional and sophisticated investors in Australia and in certain overseas jurisdictions will raise $60 million. The Placement price per New Share will be determined via a bookbuild process.
The New Shares to be issued under the Placement will rank equally with existing IPH fully paid ordinary shares on issue and are expected to be issued on Tuesday, 1 December 2015.
Macquarie Capital (Australia) Limited and Morgans Financial Limited are acting as joint lead managers and underwriters to the Placement.
17 November 2015 - $25 million Per Year of Legal Fees Uncovered
16 November 2015 - NewLaw and BigLaw Enter into Co-operation
13 November 2015 - Shine Lawyers Strategy Update
11 November 2015 - MinterEllison in FY 2015 - More Revenue, Fewer People
Image from cover of Annual Report
MinterEllison has released its FY 2015 Annual Report. Compared to FY 2014, the firm reduced partner headcount by 2% and overall firm headcount by 1.6%, yet succeeded in increasing revenue by 2.3%.
Revenue per partner increased by 4.5%.
1,629 people generated $428 million revenue (up from $418m in FY2014)
917 lawyers – average revenue per lawyer $466,739
196 partners – average revenue per partner $2,183,673
123 lawyers seconded to clients in FY 2015
2,785 clients hosted at seminars and briefings
An average of 39 hours per lawyer was pro bono work. 75% of lawyers do pro bono work.
Energy consumption reduced by 6.4% compared to FY2014.
5 November 2015 - Stewart Title® Enters into Strategic Partnership to Enable PEXA to Take On ‘Lodgement Gap’ Risk
3 November 2015 - Gadens to Become Largest Law Firm in the World
Gadens and Dentons have announced that they are considering joining forces.
Gadens along with the law firms of Dentons, the Chinese firm Dacheng, and Singapore firm Rodyk & Davidson are considering a combination that would secure the position of the world’s largest law firm as the dominant global leader in the Pacific Rim. Recognizing clients' needs for seamless, integrated and in and of the community representation in today's global economy, the partners at Gadens, Dentons, Dacheng, and Rodyk see the potential value in a combination that will support better client service globally.
The combination is expected to be a non-financial merger using a structure known as a Swiss Verein. It is a type of combination that provides the benefits of marketing under a common brand without the complications of merging finances.
In the past few years, more than 20 international firms have entered the Australian market in one form or another. The combination in this instance makes strategic sense because it enables Gadens to become part of the largest law firm in the world. For big end of town clients, size is still often equated with ability and confidence in achieving the best outcome.
29 October 2015 - Who is to Blame for the New VOI Burden?
27 October 2015 - LawPath Raises $1.3m for Further Expansion
LawPath has raised $1.3m from investors including Macdoch Ventures and Adcock Group. The company, which markets customisable legal forms and connections to lawyers, claims to have grown revenue by 800% and users by 400% year on year. Read more.
26 October 2015 - A Jobs Board for Law Students and Graduates Sourcing Opportunities Beyond BigLaw
22 October 2015 - Shine Lawyers Acquires Best Wilson Buckley Family Law
22 October 2015 - Two Years Without Timesheets - How They Did It and Why
For Moores Legal (80 person firm) it has been a four year journey through the world of value pricing. After the first two years of the journey the firm succeeded in abandoning timesheets altogether. Through the process they have been guided by John Chisholm who is one of Australia's leading consultants in the field of value pricing for professional services.
Managing Partner of Moores, David Wells was recently interviewed by Kirk Bowman for the Art of Value podcast.
It is interesting to hear how courts struggled to come to terms with costs orders when there were intentionally no timesheets.
An important point is made that when timesheets are abandoned, project management becomes even more important. [Link to Moores pricing page that includes the video referred to in the podcast below]
20 October 2015 - Judges Who Say That Courts Need to be Able to Operate Without Lawyers
16 October 2015 - Winning Clients and Winning Awards - Small Law Firm Success
Sarah Bartholomeusz founded law firm You Legal in Adelaide in October 2013. Having won a Telstra Business Award, she has come into the spotlight, showing the way for success in the marketing and delivery of legal services.
At 32 weeks pregnant, Sarah Bartholomeusz was made redundant from a role as an in-house lawyer and joint company secretary at a leading public company. It provided her with the incentive to establish You Legal, her own independent law firm of virtual lawyers. Sarah says You Legal is a new category of corporate and commercial law firm that has reinvented the way people engage legal services. Its lawyers are engaged as consultants to work as online legal counsel or as in-house counsel on retainer.
You Legal’s office is entirely virtual – there are no employees and staff communicate with clients and each other through online platforms. Sarah says it’s an alternative to engaging traditional law firms. She is also a board member of self-funded, not-for-profit Carrington Cottages Management Inc which assists homeless men.
"Our model suits companies that don't need a full-time in-house lawyer or companies with an in-house lawyer that has too much work and needs scalable, flexible support," says Sarah Bartholomeusz.
13 October 2015 - Estates: Core Practice Area of Small Law Firms
9 October 2015 - Callinans Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys to be Acquired by IPH
IPH subsidiary Fisher Adams Kelly has reached an agreement to acquire the assets of Melbourne-based Callinans.
The combined firm, to be renamed Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans, will have a strong presence in the Brisbane and Melbourne markets.
The Callinans business is predominantly focussed on a corporate client base through its office in Melbourne.
Purchase consideration for the acquisition is $11.5m, including potential earn-out payments based on FY16 earnings, capped at $6m, plus the assumption of employee entitlements.
Commenting on the acquisition IPH's Managing Director, David Griffith said "we are delighted to have reached an agreement for FAK to acquire Callinans and extend a warm welcome to the principals and staff."
Key features of the acquisition are:
· Purchase consideration (including earn-out) of $11.5m, subject to final accounting adjustments, plus the assumption of employee entitlements.
· Earn-out capped at $6m based on a proportion of FY16 earnings from key clients compared to FY15.
· Initial consideration (of $5.5m) and first $4m of earn-out (if payable) to be settled 50% by the issue of new IPH shares, and 50% in cash. Last $2m of earn-out (if payable) to be settled in cash.
· IPH shares to be issued at a 10 day VWAP up to and including the date prior to the day of completion.
· All consideration and earn-out (if any) shares escrowed for 24 months from completion.
· EPS accretive (after acquisition costs and before synergies).
· Completion is expected by 30 October 2015.
· Acquisition is conditional on obtaining required consents and approvals from third parties and no material adverse change.
8 October 2015 - The Mobile Conveyancer - Going Places Technologically
1 October 2015 - Judges in Family Law Matters Handling Two to Four Times Normal Case Load
Lawyers are warning that under resourcing has led to unacceptable delays in the Family Court and Family Law Division of the Federal Circuit Court - adding greatly to the cost of a case at a time when parties are already under serious financial strain.
President of the Law Society of New South Wales, John Eades, said that the large judicial caseload is a symptom of the inadequate number of judicial officers available due to Federal Government cost saving measures.
“The workloads of the courts have increased and judges are not being replaced to fill retirements or resignations,” Mr Eades said.
“Existing judges are sharing the dockets of judges who leave, with around 300-700 matters on each judge’s docket in the Federal Circuit Court - this makes it impossible to finalise matters efficiently and to hear any urgent applications”.
Mr Eades said that usually a judge would expect to have around 150 matters on their docket, enabling them to finalise matters within six months.
“For example, we are hearing that four judicial appointments are pending in the Family Law Division of the Federal Circuit Court, located at Sydney, Lismore, Wollongong and Parramatta,” Mr Eades said.
Mr Eades said he is hearing of delays of up to three years for some matters to reach trial.
“Delays are experienced by parties when they file a matter, waiting for a final hearing date, and waiting for a judgment to be delivered,” Mr Eades said
“This has a serious impact on parties, particularly children, for example through their contact with parents, enrolment at school or in relation to an appeal on a relocation order”.
“This can also have a significant financial impact for families involved in property matters, for example where valuations are out of date due to court delays,” he said.
Mr Eades said that the Federal Government needs to urgently address the issue so that judges in both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court are replaced in a timely manner.